GREENFIELD — Julie Stoeffler wanted to get her students fired up about learning, so she had a sprint car delivered to Greenfield-Central High School Thursday morning to teach a hands-on math lesson.
“In my opinion, learning should be exciting, fun and different,” said Stoeffler, who teaches mathematics and also coaches the school’s robotics team.
“Part of my job is to expose kids to things maybe they wouldn’t be exposed to in any other way. I want to create an experience that their brain will like. I never really know in what way my lesson plans will impact kids, but I want to try to have an impact,” she said.
Under sunny blue skies outside the school, students took turns measuring the race car as well as various model cars Nov. 16, learning a geometric concept called dilation, which calculates measurements compared to scale.
Working in pairs, they measured various features on the open-wheel race car, then measured various sized model cars, keeping track of their measurements on a chart.
“We’re going to figure out the scale and size of them, and then we’re going back to the classroom to check our work,” said Dreelynn Spencer, a 16-year-old sophomore, as she held a tiny white model stock car in one hand and a clipboard in the other.
“It’s a fun way to work on our skills. I appreciate (Stoeffler) being able to get the car out here. It’s a really cool experience,” she said.
Stoeffler reached out to Gray Auto in Greenfield to inquire about having one of their race cars delivered to the school.
Owners Brandon and Brinton Gray were happy to oblige, delivering a black car with blue and white lettering Brinton’s son, Rylan, races throughout the country.
“We were happy for the chance to help out the community and the school,” said Brandon Gray as students stretched out their measuring tapes to measure the race car parked in the lot just south of the school.
The 900-horsepower car is designed to race primarily on short oval or circular tracks, he said, and can reach speeds of 150 miles per hour on a half-mile loop.
Sophomore Freddie Tuvis IV, 15, said Monday’s lesson was a fun alternative to sitting in class.
“It’s pretty nice that we can get out of the classroom and get moving around and not just sitting at desks,” he said. “It’s nice how these people (from Gray Auto) wanted to help us learn,” he said.
Stoeffler said she got the idea for the unique lesson plan when she spotted some model sprint cars in her home.
“When I was thinking about how to make a lesson more real, I realized I have some built-in tools that I could use for this lesson,” she said.
“As we talk about dilations, we talk about scale factors and how those scales affect the overall size of an item,” she explained. “Once the measurements and data has been collected, we can evaluate our data and make some determinations about scale factors and how it equates to a model or the real thing.”
While geometry can be complicated, Stoeffler thinks making the lesson fun can help capture students’ attention. Beyond the math, she said the lesson taught students valuable skills in taking measurements, which can serve them throughout their lives.
“I think the more I can do to make real connections for students, the more likely they are to understand content and be able to apply it in life,” said the teacher.
“I try to teach a lesson in many different ways so I am appealing to each student as an individual. I always tell my kids that there are many different ways to solve a problem, choose the one your brain likes,” she said.
The fun outdoor lesson seemed to have a positive impact on students.
“It’s definitely a different way of learning,” said Robert Stevens, 16, adding that the lesson was “pretty cool.”